Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright

It was with a happy and satisfied, though wistful, sigh that we finished Spiderweb for Two:  A Melendy Maze by Elizabeth Enright as our bedtime read-aloud last week.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I don’t know when we’ve enjoyed a series as much as this one.  The saying is trite but true:  all good things must come to an end; after all, it’s much better to end a series a bit too soon than too late (because we can all think of a series or two that went on a tad bit longer than it should’ve, right?) I guess you could say that Enright pushed this one a bit past that point by taking the older kids–Mona, Rush, and newcomer Mark–out of their home, the Four-Story Mistake, for their schooling.  However, while absent in body, they were somewhat present in spirit thanks to the “maze” that some anonymous person has left the younger Melendys, Randy and Oliver, to complete in the other kids’ absence.  It’s a long-running scavenger hunt, and the clues take Randy and Oliver to various locales, from a cemetery to their father’s home office to a neighbor’s home.  Randy and Oliver puzzle over the maze’s author(s), naturally assuming it to be Mona, Rush, Mark, or all three.  Beyond the fun of reading the clues and trying to deciper them along with the younger Melendys, there are the entertaining and engrossing vignettes that the Melendy’s meanderings bring them to.  For example, Father relates a story from his childhood as it relates to one of the clues.  There is an interlude in the middle of the book in which all of the Melendys are at home under the Four-Story Mistake’s sheltering roof at Christmas time, and it is the high point in the story as far as I’m concerned.  (Not that the story is bad at all, mind you, but it just reminded me of how much I love all the other books because the children are all together.  I’m so glad Enright brought them all back together for Christmas!) The story ends happily, with the mystery solved and all the Melendys once again together for the summer.

So, we’re officially through with the Melendys. . .except. . . my girls have made off with the books for their own private enjoyment!  In fact, I had some quotes (of course!) from this book that I really, really want to share, but I cannot find the book to save my life.  (I already shared one quote here.)  Ah, well.  It will turn up eventually.

We give The Melendy Quartet a Highly, Highly Recommended.  If you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for?

Related links:

WWW: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from the 1991 Newbery Medal winning Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  In this portion, Maniac is teaching an old, washed-up baseball player how to read.  I love the extended metaphors Spinelli uses.  This is my favorite part of the book.

The old man showed an early knack for consonants.  Sometimes he got m and n mixed up, but the only one that gave him trouble day in and day out was c.  It reminded him of a bronc some cowboy dared him to ride in Texas League days.  He would saddle up that c, climb aboard and grip the pommel for dear life, and ol’ c, more often than not, it would throw him.  Whenever that happened, he’d just climb right back on and ride ‘er some more.  Pretty soon c saw who was boss and gave up the fight.  But even at their orneriest, consonants were fun.

Vowels were something else.  He didn’t like them, and they didn’t like him.  There were only five of them, but they seemed to be everywhere.  Why, you could go through twenty words without bumping into some of the shyer consonants, but it seemed as if you couldn’t tiptoe past a syllable without waking up a vowel.  Consonants, you knew pretty much where they stood, but you could never trust a vowel.  To the old pitcher, they were like his own best knuckleball come back to haunt him.  In, out, up, down–not even the pitcher, much less the batter, knew which way it would break.  He kept swinging and missing.

But the kid was a good manager, and tough.  He would never let him slink back to the showers, but kept sending him back up to the plate.  The kid used different words, but in his ears the old Minor Leaguer heard:  “Keep your eye on it. . . Hold you swing. . . Watch it all the day in. . .Don’t be anxious. . . Just make contact.”

And soon enough, that’s what he was doing, nailing those vowels on the button, riding them from consonant to consonant, syllable to syllable, word to word.

One day the kid wrote on the blackboard:

I see the ball.

And the old man studied awhile and said, slowly, gingerly:  “I. . .see. . .the. . .ball.”

Maniac whooped, “You’re reading!”

“I’m reading!”  yipped the old man.  His smile was so wide he’d have had to break it into sections to fit it through a doorway.  (101-102)

One of the greatest joys in my life has been teaching my girls to read, and I look forward to completing that same joyous journey with the DLM in the next year or so.  I can’t imagine the excitement and satisfaction I would experience from teaching an adult to read!  I sometimes imagine what my “retirement” from homeschooling will look like, and one of the things I envision doing some day is working with a local literacy agency in teaching adult reading classes.  Maybe one day I’ll get to experience this.

Menu Plan Monday

ThanksgivingThis coming week is going to be a busy one, so I attempted this weekend to do a bunch of cooking in anticipation of the busy-ness.  Here’s the menu:

Monday–oven tacos with the fixings, canned black beans (I love these!)–ETA:  share this with my family as we celebrate my nephew’s sixteenth birthday!

Tuesday–supper with Nana; moms’ night out at Panera for me

Wednesday–breakfast for supper–pancakes, eggs, and bacon–unless I’m too tired to cook; then we’ll eat out.  I discovered that pancake recipe last week, and these pancakes met with rave reviews.  It’s a keeper!

Thursday–knockoff Panera broccoli cheese soup or knockoff Wendy’s chili.  I made both of these this past weekend, so they’ll be leftover.  All of this is really iffy because this week is my nephew’s sixteenth birthday (!!!), and his family and friends will be celebrating with dinner out that night.  It’s further complicated by the fact that I’ll be preparing for a medical test on Friday, so I won’t be eating at all.  :-(

Friday–leftovers, eat out, or take out–depending on how I feel, I’m sure :-)

Yummy broccoli cheese soup

Yummy broccoli cheese soup

I don’t really make a plan for our other meals, but I did want to share a couple of things we do each week.  On Mondays we’re busy right up until lunchtime, so we usually have baked potatoes from the crockpot for lunch.  We just pop them into the crockpot early Monday morning, and they’re ready in time for lunch.  I can’t tell you how much it helps me to have that done each Monday; lunchtime is one of the several times during the day when things can get pretty hairy around here, and I find having lunch ready (and girls who are plenty big enough to fix the potatoes themselves!) a moral victory at a low ebb in the day.  :-)

I eat oatmeal (the old fashioned kind) almost every day of the week.  I eat it with natural peanut butter and and jelly stirred in.  Sometimes, though, for a  change, I’ll bake up a pan of oatmeal.  One of my IRL friends shared Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures blog on FB, and I’ve been baking her oatmeal ever since.  My favorite is the peanut butter and jelly oatmeal.  Really, this stuff is good enough to be a dessert.  I eat it for a bedtime snack, too, so it’s good at any hour.

What’s cookin’ at your house this week?

Odds & Ends

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It has been a whirlwind of a week in more ways than one:

  • Monday evening an EF-1 tornado struck an intersection a few blocks away from our house.  We had no idea at the time.  I mean, we knew the wind had picked up considerably, but our usually very reliable weather alert system didn’t work in this instance.  (It had gone off repeatedly earlier in the evening.)  We lost power until about 4 a.m. Tuesday morning.  It turns out that the tornado started in one town and ended up in another, traveling a distance of about 3.5 miles.  We are so thankful it wasn’t worse than this!
  • Since last Friday night, three of our four children have been sick with a fever.
  • Because of the timing of the sickness, we did not miss any of our daytime activities!
  • I had my bookclub meeting on Tuesday night.  Of the five people in attendance, only one of us read Jane Eyre all the way through this time, and it wasn’t I.
  • One reason I didn’t read all of Jane Eyre this time is because my head has been turned by all the Cybils books I currently have in my possession for the Armchair Cybils.

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  • The girls have been crafting up a storm this week.  Both girls caught the knitting bug at co-op on Tuesday where they saw a friend with her knitting needles in action, and Steady Eddie took them to Wal-Mart Tuesday night to buy them their own knitting needles.  Lulu worked at it a while, but then she reverted back to her first love, crocheting.  Louise picked back up an old favorite–cutting paper snowflakes.  Pretty!

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  • School went well this week.  Lulu continues in Math Mammoth Multiplication and Division 3, at the rate of 45 minutes of math daily.  Today’s lesson had her really looking at rules of divisibility and thinking them through.  Good stuff!  Louise’s RightStart lessons are still review, but it has been good and worthwhile.
  • Lulu finished up week 13 of Treasured Conversations as her main writing curriculum, and I’m going to take some time this weekend to figure out what to do next.  At this point I’m not sure that continuing in the current section of TC, which is the writing of the outline of and then the paragraphs of a story based on prescribed topic sentences.  We might skip ahead to the third section, which deals with pulling information from various nonfiction sources.
  • We’re also still working hard at narrations.  This week’s history chapter (chapter two in Landmark History, which is all about the Quakers in Pennsylvania) lent itself to being to divided into three sections.  Lulu did a one-level outline on one section and written narrations of the other two.  Louise did oral narrations (which I transcribed) on two of them, plus her regular WWE work.  Lulu and I then worked together on one of these narrations to make it a unified paragraph, and she typed up her final version of it today.

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  • One thing we rediscovered this week was the girls’ books of centuries.  We worked on these last year at some point and then shelved them.  This week I determined to start a U.S. History timeline, but I gave the girls liberty to choose what format it would take.  They remembered these books and got them back out.  I think that finally, finally this is something they’ll take ownership of.
  • We had two good days of doing Circle Time together, plus the independent work they did on their memory work on Monday.  I hope to share a post about our new batch of memory work soon!

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  • Fun Friday found us doing a bit of art work (which necessitated a short nature walk), having poetry tea time, and playing a game of Corners (with me playing simultaneously with both girls, each following different rules–eek!), as well as the girls finishing up some of their regular work.

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  •  Poetry Tea Time picks this week were Animal Tracks by Charles Ghigna and Firefly July by Paul B. Janeczko.  Firefly July is a Cybils nominated title, and I hope to share my thoughts about it soon.

  • We finished one read-aloud, Spiderweb for Two, and started another one, The Home Ranch, at bedtime this week.  I hope to share my thoughts on the former sometime in the near future.

  • Steady Eddie started reading Scumble aloud tonight, mostly to keep the girls from fighting over the library copy.  ;-)  They have read and re-read Savvy, its companion novel.

    • One of my biggest challenges right now is keeping up with my girls’ reading.  I really don’t try to keep up with everything they read–not by a long shot.  However, I want to start having more “literary” discussion with Lulu as per Susan Wise Bauer’s recommendations, and to do so, I have to read the books I assign her to read.  For the past two weeks she has worked her way through Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli at the rate of fifteen minutes per day.  (Lulu’s normal m.o. is to inhale her books, which is why I imposed the time rule.  I really wanted her to slow down and read this one.)  Louise read Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen, also in fifteen minute time segments, and for the same reason.  However, I don’t intend to introduce Lulu to literary analysis just yet.


    • In addition to all the school-related reading I’ve been doing, I’m also engrossed in a couple more juvenile fiction picks:  The Candymakers by Wendy Mass (via audiobook) and Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  Revolution, especially, is so good.

  • I found myself particularly pooped at the end of this week!  Perhaps part of it has to do with the fact that this little fellow has decided he is part goat:

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So–lots of reading and working and thankfulness (not to mention toddler-watching) this week.

How are things in your world?